Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures

Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures

by Derek "Deek" Diedricksen


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Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures by Derek "Deek" Diedricksen

If you dream of living in a tiny house, or creating a getaway in the backwoods or your backyard, you’ll love this gorgeous collection of creative and inspiring ideas for tiny houses, cabins, forts, studios, and other microshelters. Created by a wide array of builders and designers around the United States and beyond, these 59 unique and innovative structures show you the limits of what is possible. Each is displayed in full-color photographs accompanied by commentary by the author. In addition, Diedricksen includes six sets of building plans by leading designers to help you get started on a microshelter of your own. You’ll also find guidelines on building with recycled and salvaged materials, plus techniques for making your small space comfortable and easy to inhabit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612123530
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 08/25/2015
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 235,396
Product dimensions: 7.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Derek “Deek” Diedricksen is the author of Micro Living and Microshelters. He hosts the YouTube channel RelaxshacksDOTcom and has hosted, built, and designed for the HGTV series Extreme Small Spaces and Tiny House Builders, as well as for the DIY Network. His work has been featured in numerous places in print and online, including NPR, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, Make magazine, Yahoo.com, and Apartment Therapy. Diedricksen lives in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt


Tiny Houses

PEOPLE HAVE LONG ARGUED about what makes a house a real-deal home. Opinions on what characterizes a permanent, full-time dwelling differ by taste, of course, but also by region and culture. The homes in this section have a few essential elements: sleeping quarters, a toilet of some sort, a place to wash oneself (if not contained within, then very close by), and areas for food preparation and storage. Eat, sleep, digest — that's what it boils down to, and the dwellings here have that covered.


Just Fine Design/Build
Matt's self-designed and self-built home is proof that it's possible to fit many of the regular amenities of a more standard-size home into a tiny one. It's one of my very favorite tiny dwellings on the scene and is just loaded with character. Wolpe, who co-heads (with partner Kevin McElroy) the design firm Just Fine Design/Build, managed to squeeze a full kitchen with a two-burner range, a greywater system, a full bed in a lofted area, a Dickinson propane stove, and more all into only 100 square feet. Though the bathroom is off-site, Matt hid an outdoor shower in the back, seeing as Oakland's climate makes it a more desirable setup than it might be elsewhere. Aside from that, the house resembles a traditional home, albeit tinier. The budget was equally tiny. Overall, Matt spent only $5,500 on his home, which is impressive, considering the look and feel he was able to achieve within. Oh yeah, it's also made with a huge amount of free, salvaged, and repurposed materials, so an extra nod goes out to Matt for that alone.

favorite features

What I like most about Matt's home is that it includes many modern conveniences without making the place seem cramped. By leaving a good deal of open living space, Matt has made his little home feel significantly bigger than it really is. Additionally, all of his hardwood furniture was hand-built, and his floors were taken from an old roller skating rink and given new life — a great conversation piece right there, never mind that this little house is just beautiful. Built-in furniture, it should be noted, is certainly something to consider in a small house or microstructure. Most standard couches, tables, ottomans, and benches don't fit easily in a space so small, so you might want to consider custom-building your own pieces instead. They can be as fancy or as rustic as you'd like, any color you desire, and, well, built exactly the way you want ... with a little elbow grease. You'll probably save some money, and you just might have some fun, too!


Original plans by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, altered by Ella Jenkins
On a visit out to San Francisco to speak at a workshop for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, I luckily found time for a side jaunt to Half Moon Bay to see the microresidence of Ella Jenkins. Ella's self-built house is a prime example of how to make a home one's own: she's taken the time to design and arrange her living space and belongings to reflect her needs, routines, and tastes. For many, building a tiny house or microstructure, for any use, is a once-in-a-lifetime DIY task. It's certainly one you'll want to be proud of. So why not build it to suit your own needs and desires?

Little Yellow is based on a design from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (their Fencl model at the time). Among her many adjustments to the original design, Ella eliminated the Dutch hip roof on the entrance end of the home to bring out the gable to the full trailer's length. This yielded extra storage space in the secondary loft and, as an added bonus, made the roof much easier to frame. Fewer cuts, angles, and figuring often result in fewer headaches. A sleeping loft at the rear end of the house frees up living and cooking space below. This well-appointed home also features a composting toilet, a shower stall fashioned from a rather funky and fun-looking stock feed tank, and a bay window with a view (of a horse farm). There's ample space for Ella's large harp, the focal point of the main room, and a salvaged vintage school desk where she can sit and work on her handmade jewelry. She even has room left over to entertain guests, all within 120 square feet. Is it magic? Nope, just the result of a good dose of planning and knowing what one wants.

favorite features

Overall, Ella's Little Yellow has a more thoughtful and intentional feel than many of the homes I've set foot in — and there have been many. I love her choice of interior colors, which are vibrant without being overwhelming. Her combined dish storage and drainage rack (the rack hangs above the sink and drips right into it) is an excellent example of thrift and space efficiency. Also noteworthy is the post of her front porch. This thick, debarked manzanita bough, grabbed from the side of a cliff, tells the visitor from the very start, "You're about to enter a pretty darn unique home." The manzanita ain't lyin'.

THE 227

Yestermorrow Design/Build School
On a caffeine-fueled romp through the Berkshires and beyond, my brother, Dustin (aka "Dr. Demolition" ), and I hit five unusual tiny cabins and dwellings in just two days, photographing and shooting videos of each along the way. It was our "Two Days, Three States, Five Locales, Nine Videos, and 47 Cups of Coffee" tour. Well, maybe not 47. The point is, it was a fun but tiring tour, and by the time we reached the 227, our last stop, I was in a let's-just-get-this-last-shoot-over-with state of mind. Well, as we pulled up we were greeted by Jesse, one of the owners, who gave us fresh eggs and a look at a great new barn he had just designed. Then we saw the house. We were wowed by the appearance and layout of this very sparse and modern home. My mindset was changed instantly, and I was now excited (or coffee number 47 had finally kicked in!).

At 227 square feet the house is one of the larger structures covered in this book, but it's still a far cry from the average-size home in not only the United States, where excess reigns supreme, but also worldwide. The team from the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont, did a pretty exceptional job with the layout of this mini-home, which, I might add, is on wheels. Charred shou sugi ban siding (a Japanese technique of sealing the wood with a blowtorch), recycled metal light and handle fixtures, crafty storage nooks and drawers, and high ceilings all go a long way in making this a very attractive little dwelling. The bathroom, with a large, custom sliding wall/door and almost 30 square feet in size, is rather luxurious by tiny-house standards. Borrowing from nautical design, the room is a wet bath, in which the shower, sink, and composting toilet are all in the same open space. Slatted floors ensure drainage, as no one wants to splash their way to a toilet when duty calls.

favorite features

I can't get enough of the steampunk-esque, pipe-fitting ceiling lamps of the 227. So many people overlook the simple concept of using raw-looking plywood as wall cladding. Not only can it look great, but it saves time, money, and materials, not to mention weight in cases where trailer loads are a concern. The variously textured bed drawers are good-looking and fun, in addition to providing a wealth of storage space. The polycarbonate wall panels also have a great look. These make for lightweight, easy-to-install walls with an almost space-age effect.


Tennessee Tiny Homes
Arguably one of the harder-working dudes in the "tiny industry," Joe Everson (plus Joe Sr., Chris Cole, and their team at Tennessee Tiny Homes) seems to have a zeal for construction and small space design that is surpassed by few. With over 15 years of building and framing experience under his belt, Joe decided sometime around 2011 to dip his toes into the world of tiny dwellings. Since then, he has built and designed numerous homes, both "groundbound" structures and travel trailers, each one very different from its predecessor.

Mendy's Shoe Box, named for the client it was fashioned for, was one of Joe's early projects and shows his team's knack for interior style and design. One aspect I particularly love in Everson's work is the incorporation of fold-down decks that stow upward in a locked position for road travel. These also provide security when the owner is away for long periods of time. With Joe's creativity for finding storage in otherwise overlooked places, plus his team's ability to work in some rather fun color schemes, this tiny house company should be around for some time.

favorite features

Mendy's Shoe Box has a great little entrance arrangement where a built-in couch — something you don't see as often as you might expect in tiny homes — also doubles as a daybed and storage cover, and it's conveniently positioned across from a wall-mounted TV. Joe somehow manages to stuff highly functional shower and bath combos into the smallest of spaces too.


Meg Stephens, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
The Tumbleweed Linden is one of the better examples of space efficiency out there, even before factoring in the loft (which can fit a king-size mattress, with room to spare). I was lucky enough to get a tour of this place at the Sonoma County Fair as part of their Tiny Town exhibit. Upon entering, I was rather surprised at just how open this Tumbleweed felt. The Linden has the largest loft among Tumbleweed's travel trailers. It's one in a series of newer models, all with tree-related names, and is available with several different floor plans. This 20-foot-long home also boasts a second storage loft, one of the more useable kitchens I've seen in so small a home, and a real-deal, full-sized shower stall and composting toilet, which have been fit cunningly into the tiny bathroom. This is achieved by borrowing a sliver of space from the end of the kitchen, where one barely notices the loss — I didn't. Add in dormers, a fairly sizable "great room" at almost 7 x 9 feet, and plenty of wall space for art and shelving, and it all starts adding up to an aesthetically pleasing and highly functional microhome.

favorite features

The cantilevered end of the kitchen counter (just a few overhanging inches) is a nice touch in the Tumbleweed Linden, as it enables you to use it as a bar counter if you were to pull up a stool. Little details like that are what set a home apart from others. The dormer lofts and window placement also promote a nice cross-breeze, as well as ventilation in what would otherwise be a very hot loft space. The bathroom's full-shower-stall trick is so subtle most would never notice the stolen space from the kitchen. I'm also a fan of the front porch. With no railings, it becomes more open, usable, and flexible, and serves as a more gradual transition between the indoor and outdoor living spaces. The two front posts would also make for a great place to string up a temporary hammock.


Michael Papillo and Jenny Yee
Michael Papillo and Jenny Yee own and operate a tiny-house bed-and-breakfast in Portland, Oregon, that they designed and built themselves. They ventured into this enterprise with a big sense of style and a very small budget. Repurposing materials for this backyard retreat not only saved them money but also set them far apart from the countless other B&Bs that dot the landscape these days.

"Sustainable design was very important to us," says Michael. The trim and shelves were created from wood nabbed from an old shed formerly on the property, and the teak flooring, otherwise very expensive, and cedar shake siding were obtained as leftovers from several high-end construction jobs. Again, the result here is not only savings but also a dose of character that gives this little oasis a look that is so not "off the shelf."

favorite features

In addition to the vibrant patches of color, such as the gold bathroom door, you'll find many other elements of the Rustic Modern that immediately say, "This is no boxy 'n' bland hotel room you're staying in." I really think the table made from a chunk of old door is a great idea, the orange couch adds a fun and almost punky feel to the room, and the dresser-style kitchen cabinets are unconventional yet look so at home. The loft, which houses a queen-size bed, is accessed not by a ladder but by real stairs, which many guests find much easier to use, and the rustic treads just look fantastic. It's pretty hard for me to find anything I don't like about this Portland rental.


Steve Sauer
This micro-architectural brainchild of engineer Steve Sauer was born from an old storage room and speaks modernity to its very core. Steve, a bicycling enthusiast, artist, engineer, and minimalist at heart, has cleverly shoehorned so very much into so very little. The Pico is more than just minute; it's also classy and brags a wealth of custom DIY touches. Recycled slabs of IKEA wood, for instance, have been reimagined into new tables, benches, and shelving. The custom metal work, be it railings or supports or the two elevated bed platforms, also gives this place a one-of-a-kind feel. Steps to the main sleeping loft (from the mid-level "cafe" or lounging area) double as additional seating, and the negative voids behind them become storage space in the office nook under one of the elevated beds. It's all very well thought out, which is immediately evident when you first enter the space.

During my tour of the place Steve pointed out a feature in the bathroom: "This is perhaps the world's most expensive soap holder. It's made from laser-routed stainless steel, with inset containers from The Kitchen Store, and additional hardware welded on." You quickly understand that this is a man who knows exactly what he wants.

favorite features

The Pico's layering, all within a space only 10 feet 4 inches in height, is pretty ingenious. Steve knew enough to allocate full-height spaces in select circumstances — his upright desk space beneath his bed, for instance — and when to negotiate less space and to layer certain living quarters. The latter is illustrated in a TV-viewing nook that challenges the notion that you need a lofty space to sit and watch television.

The fold-down dining room table, almost accordion-like, can hold up to six place settings and fits within a kitchen and living room space that never seems to feel cramped.


Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
Still quite small in its footprint of 262 square feet, Chris Haynes's tiny house was based on a set of Bodega plans from California's Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and underwent quite a bit of tweaking to suit Chris's tastes and conform to local codes. While many of the microstructures in this book exist in an off-the-radar, don't-ask-don't-tell manner (which is why some of the locales aren't ultra-specific), Chris's place is 100 percent legal — fully permitted, fully inspected, and fully fantastic. While the sleep loft offers an additional 64 square feet of living, not to mention a good deal of storage in the eaves, it's the cathedral ceiling, only interrupted by the long run of a woodstove flue, that makes this home feel larger than it is. Yes, its main room is only a little over 150 square feet, but it has an impressive height of close to 15 feet. Hoops, anyone?

Chris's house is also off-grid and solar and boasts a TV entertainment system with a 50-inch projection (onto his living room's white wall) that runs on a mere, almost unheard-of 18 watts. This system, a combination of a Roku Box and a Brookstone mini projector, works very well.

Like the majority of the homes in this book, I had a chance to see Chris's firsthand, and I especially loved his rustic screened-in porch. This long, thin room overlooking a swamp provides a second sleep space in warmer weather. Come the colder months Chris has little to worry about, as the walls of his cozy little home are superinsulated, both inside the stud cavities and on the exterior. The house could almost be heated with a birthday cake.

favorite features

Chris Haynes's kitchen cabinets are semi-genius in that they appear to have little depth or storage room to them on first glance, but once you open them, you realize that Chris has recessed them into the wall-stud cavities. He gets the same effect with a hollowed-out spot for his medicine cabinet in the bathroom.


Excerpted from "Microshelters"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Derek Diedricksen.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tiny Houses
  • Matt Wolpe’s Tiny House
  • Little Yellow
  • The 227
  • Mendy’s Shoe Box
  • The Tumbleweed Linden
  • The Rustic Modern
  • The Pico-Dwelling
  • Chris Haynes’s Humble Home
  • Hal’s Uber-Funky Micro Guesthouse
  • The Luna Bleu
  • The Matchbox
  • The V House
  • The Giant Journey Home
Backyard Cabins, Camps, and Hideaways
  • The Owl House
  • The Transforming A-Frame
  • Jim’s Streamside Retreat
  • The Rock Bottom
  • The Writer’s Haven
  • Dianne and Bill’s Place
  • The Rock Shed
  • The Vision Hut at Ancient Oaks
  • The Relax Shack
  • The Miner’s Shelter
  • The All Eights Microcabin
  • The Hinterland Studio
  • Tyler’s Marshside Shack
  • The Horror Hut
  • The Periscope
  • The Sunset House
  • The Collapsible House
  • The Bread Box
  • Sleepbox
  • Neil and Kurt’s Teenage Log Cabin
  • Austin Guest House
Tree Houses and Stilted Shelters
  • Schaumburg Tree House
  • Swanky San Francisco Tree House
  • Fern Forest Tree House
  • The RF 800
  • The Steam Studio
  • Tree House on a Farm
  • The Lime Wedge
  • The ModFruGal Stilt House
  • The Wolfe’s Den
  • Nashville Modern Fort
  • Jonas’s Tree House
On Wheels
  • Shepherd’s Huts
  • The Cub
  • The Gnomadik
  • The Mighty Micro House
  • The Professor’s Pod
  • The Gypsy Junker
  • Henrietta
  • Jean’s Gypsy Wagon
Playhouse and Nooks
  • The Li’l Orange Playhouse
  • The Book Nook
  • The Nisker Nook
  • The Little Blue Bump
  • The Crate Escape
Gathering Your Tools
Budgeting & Salvaging
Decor on a Dime

Six from the Masters
  • The Sawtooth
  • The Micro Dogtrot Cabin
  • The Stilted Sleeper
  • The Permatent
  • The Carey Cabin
  • The Woodsy Waggon

Customer Reviews

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Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's got a lot of great ideas
Penmouse More than 1 year ago
Micro Shelters by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen is a beautifully written book as the author has compiled a series of tiny shelters showing how living tiny means living big when it comes to style. Diedricksen starts his book with a sensible disclaimer that says something to the effect of using proper safety precautions and to follow building codes. His book then offers the following sections: *Amazing Microshelters *Tools and Materials *Plans to Inspire The section on microshelters features different tiny house styles. Inside the this chapter you will see photos and general layouts for some of the following plans: *Matt Wolpe’s Tiny House (It’s a 100 square with a floor plan shown) *Little Yellow (it’s a 120 square feet and a floor plan is shown) *The 227 (It’s 227 square feet with a floor plan shown) The section on Backyard Cabins, Camps & Hideaways features some of the following house styles: *The Transforming A-Frame (It’s 80 square feet) *The Writer’s Haven (It’s 132 square feet) *Dianne and Bill’s Place (It’s 108 square feet) *The Miner’s Shelter (45 square feet plus 100 feet exterior) Another section of Micro Shelters focuses on micro shelters on wheels. Within in this section you will find some of the following shelters: *The Cub (40 square feet and can be towed using a Chrysler minivan) *The Mighty Micro House (It’s 136 square feet ) *Henrietta (It’s 26 square feet) You will also find a section showing different playhouses and the like. Inside this section some of the ideas I liked included: *The Book Nook *The Nisker Nook At the end of the book you will find six floor plans from “the masters”. There are plenty of tips on how to start the microshelter project including the recommendation to contact an expert if you are a newbie. A couple of the plans that intrigued me included: *The Woodsy Wagon *The Micro Dogtrot Cabin *The Carey Cabin I truly enjoyed reading this book as it has given me some ideas for potential “honey do” projects after we retire. I found the book inspirational because of the beautiful photos showing the different tiny structures, the decorating ideas, and the inclusion of building lingo made this book an exceptional read. I also enjoyed learning what is considered a microstructure. If you are looking for inspiration and building ideas, I’m sure you’ll love reading Micro Shelters. Review written after downloading a galley from NetGalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im dumb.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
They say good things come in small packages, and that's definitely true here! Being a fan of cabins and rustic homesteads, and drawn to small homes with little room for clutter (because my life is so cluttered!), I was looking forward to getting a look at this book, and it didn't disappoint. Written with humor and passion, the book includes "Tiny Houses", "Backyard Cabins, Camps, and Hideaways", "Tree Houses and Stilted Shelters" and homes "On Wheels". This is then followed by a list of tools and materials, outlines where to salvage supplies and how to decorate on a budget, and an offering of six plans for backyard microshelters that you can build. I enjoyed the author's writing and creativity (many of the structures were designed and built by the author), and the photography did a great job of showcasing the designs. I only wish that there were more homes ("Tiny Houses") and fewer of the other designs which mostly amount to shacks and clubhouses. While clever and well thought out, shacks and backyard clubhouses were not quite what I was looking for. But overall this is a great effort, and perfect for people looking for a "tiny" bit of inspiration.